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Legal exposure over Trump and Cohen tape. TRANSCRIPT: 7/25/2018. The Beat w Ari Melber.

Guests: Leah Wright Rigueur; Madison Gesotto; Howell Raines; John Flannery; Jess McIntosh

Show: THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER Date: July 25, 2018 Guest: Leah Wright Rigueur; Madison Gesotto; Howell Raines; John Flannery; Jess McIntosh

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: All right, that answered my question at least what do you do with the extra tusk or horn or antler -- anyway. I didn't know that can be two unicorns.

That's all for tonight. We will back tomorrow with more MTP DAILY. We are searching for the second unicorn now.

THE BEAT WITH ARI MELBER starts right now.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, Chuck. Thank you very much.

We begin tonight with the first time the American public has ever heard a recording of Donald Trump speaking when he thought no one was listening to his lawyer Michael Cohen. This tape is by Donald Trump's former lawyer, and it is of their private conversation, and it's about not normal planning or random stuff, just take in tonight what we are talking about. Secret payments allegedly planned to be made to a former playboy model who claimed she had a relationship with then candidate Trump.

So let's break down exactly what we know and don't know. Not everything on the tape is bad, for example, for the President. But let's go through it. Here's part of the tape where they appear to be discussing buying Karen McDougal's story from the "National Enquirer." Now, this audio originally broke on CNN. But Michael Cohen's current lawyer, Lanny Davis, has authenticated it for NBC. We have not confirmed, though, what happened around the tape, whether it was edited or altered. Take a listen.


MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP'S FORMER PERSONAL LAWYER: I need to open up a company for the transfer of all of that info regarding our friend David, you know. So that -- I'm going to do that right away. I have actually come up and I have spoken --.


COHEN: And I have spoken to Allen Weisselberg about how to set the whole thing up with --

TRUMP: So what do we have to pay for this?

COHEN: Funding -- yes. And it is all the stuff.

TRUMP: Yes, I was thinking about that.

COHEN: All the stuff. Because here you never know where that company --

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that.


MELBER: He is all over it. What they are discussing, appears to suggest concern about a third party owning this story, this claim that could be problematic for Trump, even if the third party would be the long-time friend referred to as David, which given what we know about the story is widely understood to be David Pecker, a friend of Donald Trump's and the owner of the "National Enquirer."

So let's go through three key things, first, after months of hints, there is now actual proof Donald Trump's lawyer was secretly recording him. Second, Trump does appear to have known about aspects of this arrangement for a tabloid to try to help him by buying McDougal's story. That means the denies from his camp about it were lies that he directed. Third, there's an implication here of some type of plan to use this third party, a tabloid company, to benefit Donald Trump. With that in mind, listen to more from the recording.


COHEN: You never know where that company.

TRUMP: Maybe he gets hit by a truck.

COHEN: Correct. So I'm all over that. And I spoke to Allen about it. When it comes time for the financing which will be --

TRUMP: Wait a sec, what financing?

COHEN: Well, I'll have to pay him something.

TRUMP: Pay with cash.

COHEN: No, no, no, no. I have got.

TRUMP: Check. How are you?


MELBER: No, no, no, don't pay cash is a clear and important message Cohen wanted to impart. Then to be clear and to be fair, that tape abruptly ends. Now, Trump's lawyers and Cohen's lawyers are fighting all about what it means, what is on the tape, whether this is a fair rendering of the facts. Trump said he wanted to pay in cash, it appears. But there's a debate about that as well.

The central point though here is the question of whether Trump, Cohen or this tabloid broke any laws together or separately. The "Wall Street" journal reporting that Cohen did set up a shell company to buy McDougal's story, that shows intent to make this happen. Also reporting that he didn't purchase the rights.

But was there any some other form of payment? Was there some other plan or conspiracy to use the legal word to make this all happen? Or, did it never happen, in which case, as Donald Trump has argued, maybe it's not so bad after all. And was everyone honest when speaking to the authorities in person or through documents about this? And another big question after all the buildup with this tape out, when you take it all together in fairness, does it help Donald Trump or does it hurt him?

That's a question we begin with former federal prosecutor John Flannery and Leah Wright Rigueur, professor at Harvard Kennedy's school of government with more experts on the way.

But I want to get your view as a prosecutor, not as a critic of some of Donald Trump's policies or a critic of his judgment. Does anything on this tape, in your view, legally hurt the President?

JOHN FLANNERY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Absolutely. And, in fact, if you listen to the beginning of the tape, there's a very interesting thing happening. You hear a rustling, which I think means Cohen turned on his recorder before he went to the meeting. And he knew he was going to tape it. And it goes off when he says no, no, no, a check. Cohen was protecting himself, and when he got to the meeting, he probably took it out of his pocket, pretended to be checking email and put it down between the two of them and then taped the conversation.

MELBER: And you are putting out a theory. You don't know that for a fact. But it is an interesting theory. You are suggesting that it was bad stuff that Cohen wanted to get on record for himself. No, I'm not about some secret cash payment that could blow up in our face.

FLANNERY: No. I think it's worse than that.


FLANNERY: See, I think he knew before the meeting what the meeting was about. That's my inference from this evidence. Because I have had tape recordings in which it's all muffled, because the thing is hidden in the jacket pocket somewhere and he gets there and takes it out, you know, and he plays with it and puts it down and he tapes the conversation from that point on.

We see the context is entirely about campaigns. They are talking about pastors in the south, and he has some gruff talk about that. They talk about are we going to have to worry about my divorce? Is any of that going to come out before the election? So the whole context is the election. And then they talk about, you know, can I trust them to have this? Maybe we should do something to protect myself, you know, should we buy it? How should we do this?

Now, I think here's the interesting thing. Trump is the kind of person that if you tell him, oh, no, no, we should do by check, you think he doesn't come back and do it by cash, and consider Pecker's position --

MELBER: Again, that's conjecture. What I'm interested in tonight is whether the stuff on the tape is bad for him. Let me also go to Leah Wright Rigueur on whether this is maybe sometimes worse for Cohen than Trump. This is a man who had a professional obligation to his client. He hasn't been released from that obligation. And he bragged about his loyalty in that obligation. Take a listen to him talking about attorney/client privilege.


COHEN: I'm going to be the personal attorney to Mr. Trump, but I'm going to remain technically in the same role for Mr. Trump for President Trump as I was when he was President of the Trump organization.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So can I assume that in that role, not being a government role, that you'd have attorney/client privilege with President Trump?

COHEN: Yes, of course.


MELBER: It would appear Michael Cohen's breaking that privilege today.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: I don't think Michael Cohen cares right now. I think Michael Cohen cares about what Michael Cohen's -- what's going to keep Michael Cohen out of the hot seat. And so there have been rumblings. I know his lawyer said that he is willing to make deals, that he is willing to talk, and that's what I think Donald Trump should be really concerned about because now we are talking about somebody who knows where the bodies are buried. He knows all of the dirty and salacious details.

I mean, we already know that Donald Trump has a complete disregard for ethics, for rules and for regulations. But now we actually have somebody on the inside who is saying well, no, actually I have tapes and this is how it was done. So right now, Michael Cohen is concerned about getting himself out of any kind of legal or criminal possibility.

MELBER: Right. I think it's important when you say. If the bodies were lawfully buried and died of natural causes, he still has an obligation to his client. If he was part of burying bodies that he killed, then the crime fraud exception and other obligations would kick in.

I want to broaden this out to two people who also know where some bodies are buried. Howell Raines is a friend of ours, a former executive editor of the "New York Times," who has been covering many people involving this story for a long time and Madison Gesotto who has been on the Trump campaign advisory board and brings to us a perspective.

I wonder your response on behalf of the Trump perspective hearing all this.

MADISON GESOTTO, TRUMP CAMPAIGN ADVISORY BOARD: You know, as the former prosecutor said it was a muffled tape because of the way it was recorded. So I think what we are seeing going around the media today is a lot of people they are saying they are hearing one thing. A lot people are saying they are hearing another. So it is a very much Yani (INAUDIBLE) situation. And I think in two week, we get more clear tape, we are not going to be sure what we are hearing.

MELBER: Who is Yani? Is Michael Cohen Yani?

GESOTTO: I don't know. You know, we might not agree on that. But when it comes to Michael Cohen, I know Michael. I am extremely shocked by what he did. As attorney myself, I can never imagine recording my clients without their consent or without them even knowing them knowing that I'm doing. So I don't think that is ethical. And he is really on his worst behavior right now.

MELBER: Are you disappointed in Michael? Do you think he's done something wrong with respect to his obligations with the campaign you both served?

GESOTTO: I am disappointed, absolutely.

MELBER: Howell?

HOWELL RAINES, FORMER EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I won't get into whether I'm disappointed in either the President or Michael Cohen. Let me say, I'm not surprised.

But this Cohen-Trump soap opera is going in to its second year now. And to me, the big news this week is we got a new actor. And that is Lanny Davis. And Lanny Davis, I have known for quite a long time. He got his black belt in street fighting defending Bill Clinton during the Monica Lewinsky thing. And I see, this is Davis and Cohen serving notice, not just to the President, but to Rudy that you are no longer the only bully on the block.

MELBER: And that they will take control of news and events. There was much speculation about why we are hearing about this now, and where does it fit into other stories, which we are also covering on the show from border security and immigration issues, to questions over Putin, which we are actually covering later tonight.

But let's listen to Lanny Davis who confirmed that he is the source of the tape, as I mentioned. Because that tells you this is material they do think will hurt the President. Here's more from Lanny Davis as this story broke.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And there are more tapes of Donald Trump?

LANNY DAVIS, MICHAEL COHEN'S ATTORNEY: There are certainly more tapes that Mr. Cohen has discussed that he normally did in order to take notes. He used his telephone, beyond that, I'm not going to comment.


MELBER: So I'm hearing more tapes, Howell and a kind of defense that I don't think is that good for a lawyer. I was secretly recording to take notes. Most lawyers would say if you're doing something on behalf of your client, it doesn't need to be a secret. And you would say Howell, let's memorialize part of this. I'm going to turn this tape recorder on. That is not what happened here.

RAINES: No, it is not. But you know, I think, again, the bigger picture - - this administration and this particular episode had become a hospice where reputations go to die.

FLANNERY: Beautiful.

RAINES: And so, again, to repeat with Lanny's entry, now I think we have got big muscular players on the field who may not be afraid to bend the rules.

MELBER: Well, given the writer that you are, it is a flourish of a phrase. I give you the rebuttal.

GESOTTO: We don't know who was on the other tapes. We don't know what's on the other tapes, again, to skepticize at this point. I think is too early. And I really believe that what he did was wrong. And that is a separate issue, obviously. These tapes are coming out. They have waived attorney/client privilege in terms of letting them out. So we will see what happens.

FLANNERY: I think we are very close to Lanny cooperating. I'm not so sure that we have Mr. Cohen cooperating yet. And I think that if he were, the southern district wouldn't have allowed this to happen and it might blow the whole deal.

I'm also interested if we follow the scenario that they were having in that conversation, if you went to Mr. Pecker and you said to him, do you mind selling us this, I think he would say no. He would say there's no trail away from me. This appears to be a judicial -- excuse me, appears to be a newsman's decision not to run the story. If you come in and buy it, then you reveal exactly your role in the entire event. But he might have wanted to be paid. That's hypothetical.

MELBER: To use a legal term, this the funkiest part of the whole story which is what is a self-declared tabloid media publication doing in the middle of this? And that was something I pressed Ms. McDougal's lawyer on about this because again, I want to be very precise. It doesn't mean that Donald Trump did something wrong, although he could have, but it does mean that this tabloid is here doing what, political favors for a Presidential campaign which they are not authorized to do. I want to play and get your response, this is her lawyer on that question when we discussed it.

FLANNERY: All right.


MELBER: If your client made this deal with the "National Enquirer," why was Michael Cohen involved?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's the $64 million question.

MELBER: Or is it the $130,000 question depending on the case?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, 150 in ours.

MELBER: You don't know?


MELBER: Do you think it's nefarious?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, it's nefarious.

MELBER: Of course, it is nefarious.


FLANNERY: I think it's the $25 question because what does a tabloid with the high standards that the "National Enquirer" have walk away during an election, pays $150,000 when the election is in November, and decides, oh, it's not up to our high standard, or is it the long-standing relationship with Trump and the conversations had with Cohen, and probably Trump who is his friend who is more concerned he get killed in traffic than to own the story.

MELBER: If they did that for political benefit --


MELBER: Or lied to authorities about it, are those both felonies?


FLANNERY: And I would be interviewing Pecker tomorrow if he hasn't been interviewed by the southern district yet.

RIGUEUR: All I got to say is that right now I'm sure Donald Trump is out there listening to some Camron and wishing that people would stop snitching because this is all bad. This is all bad. No matter which way you cut it, even if we say, OK, nothing legal was done here, it looks incredibly bad. We have another case of a cover-up. We have, you know, the "National Enquirer" acting as essentially a, you know, propaganda (INAUDIBLE) or doing things doing political favors that they shouldn't have been doing. And then we have, you know, a trusted lawyer breaking that confidence, or at least the lawyer's lawyer breaking that confidence to say I'm ready to, you know, to speak. I'm ready to talk.

MELBER: Right. Well, you are saying Camron said no snitching. I think it was Kanye who said I got a lawyer to keep what's in my safe safe, and (INAUDIBLE) what is in Michael Cohen's safe is not safe anymore.

I want to give special thanks here to John Flannery, Howell Raines and Madison Gesotto and Leah Wright Rigueur.

Stay with us. We have got some special feed anniversary stuff later on in the night.

But coming up, Michael Avenatti is here live to talk about what he think the tapes means. He did call that it was coming.

Also, Donald Trump punting on that very controversial summit with Putin as one of his top aides gets grilled on Capitol Hill.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the President tell you that he discussed relaxing Russia sanctions or not, yes or no?

MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: The President is entitled to have private meetings.


MELBER: And new hints about the Trump bubble. He was apparently enraged when a TV near him was not turned to FOX News.

All that and our very special panel on a special edition of THE BEAT. We are celebrating our one-year anniversary.

I'm Ari Melber. And we will be right back.


MELBER: If it's on, then it's on, unless it's delayed. The news tonight, President Trump punting on his summit with Vladimir Putin. You remember that he said it was going to happen in the fall. Now the White House curiously revising and saying it will be pushed to sometime next year, and this is where it gets a little hinky. Trump officials also saying it will come when quote "the Russia witch hunt is over."

Meanwhile, Donald Trump's secretary of state Mike Pompeo facing very tough questions including from some Republicans today about Trump's meeting with Putin.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really need a clear understanding as to what is going on, what our President is agreeing to, and what our strategy is on a number of issues. We saw an American President who appeared submissive and deferential.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did he tell you what transpired in the two-hour meeting?

POMPEO: I have had a number of conversations with President Trump about what transpired in the meeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you speak to the translator who was at that meeting?

POMPEO: No, I haven't.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did the President tell you that he discussed relaxing Russia sanctions or not, yes or no?

POMPEO: The Presidents are entitled to have private meetings.


MELBER: Joining me is Jess McIntosh, a former aide to Hillary Clinton and Sam Seder, an MSNBC analyst.

A lot of interest in this because the Congress is supposed to do its oversight job. This is where you can put aside the rhetoric and the drama of the Putin meeting and actually say does Congress as a co-equal branch want a different Russia policy?

JESS MCINTOSH, FORMER AIDE TO HILLARY CLINTON: Yes. And Trump's cabinet is put in just a horrific position by having to answer questions that involve facts because they don't know them because the President hasn't been forthcoming at all with what happened with the one-on-one meeting with Putin.

MELBER: Let's pause on that. You are making a point in fairness to secretary Pompeo, which is not that he is a liar, but he may work for a liar who hides things from him.

MCINTOSH: Yes. Which I think should come back as source on his character that he has chosen to do this, work for a liar. But for this moment, I feel a little bit of sympathy. He doesn't know what Putin and Trump said because nobody knows what Putin and Trump said except for, of course, Vladimir Putin and probably the whole cabinet of the Kremlin. We are in the dark. So Pompeo --.

MELBER: A secondary point. I'm only riding the wave of the points here educating on us. You are observing that many people inside the Kremlin operation probably know more than our own secretary of state.

MCINTOSH: Significantly.

MELBER: Which itself is chilling.

MCINTOSH: Absolutely. That is why you are seeing the ministry of defense in Russia saying we are thrilled to agree to the terms the President and Putin decided when we have no idea what they are referring to. So at this point, Pompeo can either say, yes, they had a meeting. It went really well. It is good that we are allies with Russia, essentially agreeing with what Donald Trump says in public, or try to pretend that that's not what he said.

So he is stuck in this totally untenable position where he has to say, actually, the President's been really hard on Russia when we all know it's the opposite. So it's not something that he can keep up. It's not a sustainable thing. We are going to see these cabinet members come forward and self-emulate pretty quickly in this cabinet because that's what you do when you are working for somebody is a congenital liar.

MELBER: Is it alright if I talk about in front of Sam?


MELBER: I find Jess' analysis insightful and a little depressing.

SAM SEDER, MSNBC ANALYST: Yes, I would think so.

I mean, look, to a large extent, this was -- there was a lot of theater here. The senators know he doesn't know what he is talking about. Pompeo knows he doesn't know what he is talking about. Pompeo knows they know he doesn't know what he is talking about.

And so, everybody is in the dark. And really, on some level, this is just to sort of exclaim, hey, this is very problematic that we are all in the dark here. We have no idea what's going on.

MELBER: You mentioned that, and then you look at the wider context outside of what happened in the meeting itself, which is where having said things in fairness to Pompeo, he -- and this is all developing news, getting it into our newsroom as he has been doing the hearing, he did not comport himself very well. And that is in playing word games to defend or suggest that the President has not drastically undermined our own intelligence agencies, which remains a huge issue here. Let's take a look at this exchange, also, with Senator Corker.


SEN. BOB CORKER (R), TENNESSEE: What is it that causes the President to purposely, purposely create distrust in these institutions and what we are doing?

POMPEO: Senator, I disagree with most of what you just said there. You somehow disconnect the administration's activities from the President's actions. They are one and the same. Every sanction that was put in place was signed off by the President of the United States.


MCINTOSH: I mean, this shows what a bind Republicans are in. And of course, we are only seeing the ones who have decided that they are not going to run for reelection actually press the members of the Trump administration, which is why you see Corker seeming to uphold democracy, while the rest of his colleagues decide that's not their job, running for reelection is.

SEDER: Right. And for Pompeo, the audience is really is Donald Trump. I mean, I think so much of the answers he gave were really less for the senators and more for Donald Trump. I mean, even when he said he didn't want to talk about what was going on with North Korea publicly.

I mean, look, if things are going well, I'm sure that we would have heard about it. And it's either he doesn't want Donald Trump to hear how things are going, or he doesn't want to put Donald Trump in a uncomfortable situation where the rest of the country hears from the secretary of state that everything Donald Trump said was gained in those meetings with North Korea were actually nothing.

MELBER: Right. Then you have an exchange with senator Murphy of course, this is more on the Democrats' side. Let's take one look at this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you make of his most recent statement --?

POMPEO: Senator, I will leave you. You can speculate. You can draw whatever inferences you want for whatever purposes you so choose. Here's what I can tell you. I can tell our allies --.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No. There's no inference. I mean, it's a statement from the President in which he says that the Russian interference in the U.S. election is a hoax from July 22nd. There's no inference I need to draw from that. That's the President's statement.

POMPEO: Senator, you are certainly trying to draw inferences about the American policy. And I am laying out for you American policy.


SEDER: Well, I mean, he is drawing inferences because there's a lot of different mixed messages coming from Donald Trump and then the administration. Pompeo can say we are all on this together but it really is a function of him saying to the President, hey, I'm still on your team, and I will get your back here.

But we're not -- none of this is the normal process of the way that we formulate these type of foreign policies where there is some buy-in from all elements of our government. And there's no buy-in because there's no understanding of what the policy is.

MCINTOSH: I didn't get to grow up in a banana republic. So I don't know how they usually work. But I imagine that they involve an authoritarian figure head who has a lot of very well trained sycophantic yes men around them. And that is the only way they are able to stand up and say the economy is growing when people are starving. And the weather is beautiful when it's raining.

Trump is trying really hard to be that figure. And the question is, do the rest of the Republicans around him fall in line and allow that to happen?

MELBER: Well -- and that speaks to a political point that can get lost here, which is if you don't care about the ethics and the rules of all this, and Donald Trump just wanted to do domestic politicking and put this all in the rear view, and didn't have some other reason, whether it is ego or debt, or the more nefarious reasons that has been speculated in the dossier and elsewhere, for placating Russia, he wouldn't have to go act like that with Putin, then come back and suck up to him, then announced that Putin is getting a White House invite, then how Pompeo be grilled about things that are secret.

In other words, at a certain point, it doesn't look like a debate over what happened in 2016 that people are roar sharking. It looks like a thing that's happening in slow motion before our eyes.

SEDER: Absolutely. And it really stretches the imagination that Donald Trump came in with a very sophisticated foreign policy agenda. I mean, it really -- honestly. And the actions that he's taking are not even consistent with somebody who is trying to prove that he's not -- look, it feels like someone who's being leveraged. And the idea that even the notion you would have, based upon -- even if it was all spurious, all the accusations, all the suspicions were spurious, if you are Donald Trump and you're acting like a politician, you don't schedule another meeting with Putin right before the election.

MELBER: Right. Why are going to -- I have got to fit in a break. You stay, because I want to hear more from you as we do our special -- well, I hope it is less depressing, our anniversary celebration.

Sam Seder, as always, thanks for being here on our special show.

Coming up, from the Michael Cohen tapes to Russia probe, is the pressure getting to him? "The New York Times" is reporting Donald Trump rages against quote "reality itself." That's a real thing.

And my power house panel tonight, Bill Kristol back together with the great fat Joe, plus Leah Wright Rigueur, and as mentioned Jess McIntosh, that's next.


ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: The news tonight is that Donald Trump's open challenges to facts and truth itself are reportedly getting even bolder and I have a very special panel of some of our favorite guests of the year including Fat Joe with Bill Kristol, Jess McIntosh and Leah Wright Rigueur. And my question for the table right now is whether as some critics have said Donald Trump is effectively lying to and gas-lighting America and getting people nervous about what the facts are and what sources they should rely on. The New York Times is now Reporting that he "rage at his staff for having someone else's television, the First Lady tuned to CNN, a news network instead of Fox." His aides also working to "keep him insulated from the outside world." And all of this is the context for something we reported on right here on THE BEAT something worth taking seriously, the President the United States saying people should not believe the things they see with their own eyes.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This country is doing better than it's ever done before economically.

But it's all working out and just remember what you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.


MELBER: And I bring in our very special panel here on our one-year anniversary celebration. Fat Joe --

FAT JOE, RAPPER: Congratulations. I got my brother here, the dynamic duo. They love us, man. They love us.

MELBER: Bill Kristol --

BILL KRISTOL, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, THE WEEKLY STANDARD: Biggest ratings of the year when we were on. I think you know (INAUDIBLE) the rest of the year when we're not on together.

MELBER: You know, you sound a little bit -- you sound a little bit like the President. Fat Joe, in music as in many other walks of life where facts and truth and credibility matter people talk a lot about keeping it real. Is Donald Trump keeping it real? Why is it important to him to tell people don't believe CNN or whatever channel and don't believe what you're seeing with your eyes?

FAT JOE: We've never seen nothing like this before and it's so weird because you got like half of America following the Donald Trump playbook and then you got the other half, you know what I mean, who doesn't agree with nothing they doing. So it's -- I have the weirdest conversations at the airport. It's like somebody who's for Trump is just like they don't want to hear nothing we got to say and vice versa, you know. So you really got like people who almost said essentially there's zombies to Donald Trump out there. They believe in whatever he has to say even though we know it isn't true.

KRISTOL: Yes, well said. I'm just as echo, you know, like his second man, you know.

MELBER: No, it's called a hype man.

KRISTOL: You know this stuff. You know this stuff.

MELBER: If you repeat the end of his bar, you're his hype man.

FAT JOE: When you introduced us, he said, wow, you're the great Fat Joe.

KRISTOL: Why aren't the rest of us? You know what I mean? I agree actually I mean -- I mean, we're a very divided country, very polarized country, and the President is -- I mean, he's given up and tried to persuade anyone who's not on his side already I think. But he figured if he mobilizes his base, he avoids too bad an outcome this November, and then maybe the Democrats mess up enough so he gets himself reelected. But he's doing -- he's doing a lot of damage to the country. I mean, the degree of just flat-out lying and sort of constructing alternative realities is you know genuinely shocking.

MELBER: So Joe says he's got fans in the airport who like Trump and they have a different set of facts. You have a lot of allies or former friends or maybe current friends in the conservative movement who are by and large down with this. What do they say to you and do you think they are being factually challenged at times?

KRISTOL: Yes, I think the intelligent ones say, well look, of course, he exaggerated some lies sometimes and he's personally doesn't have high moral standards but you know the tax cuts, the judges, the country is not falling apart, the economy is growing, we're not -- we're not at war so we just have to put up with this. For me the big question is this. I think people now can say that what happens the day after election day this year when it becomes a decision about the next four years? I mean, people can say I'm willing to tolerate him now. I don't agree with this but they can say that. Are they willing to say let's give him an additional four years? That's where I think the Trump numbers and the polls are misleading. You know, you can approve of him for now but that doesn't mean you want to reelect him.

JESS MCINTOSH, EXECUTIVE EDITOR, SHAREBLUE: Yes, I think -- I think that's a really important point. I think that he keeps making it like he's turning the vice on Republicans like they were -- they could do the tax cut thing until he started putting children in jails -- in jails, in cages right and then it became really hard to say yes, but tax cuts because you kind of sound a little inhumane when you do that. I think what's really chilling is that his staff, these Republicans who know better who actually do see the issues that this is causing the country somehow want to keep him isolated from other viewpoints.

The idea that he subsists in this little conservative echo bubble where nobody ever challenges him and there's no political ramifications for these insane things he doing as a staffer I would want him to know that there was real political consequence for some of the things that he did inside and when he lied that that hurt him. If you watch Fox News only you would never know that there were any repercussions, that he was losing anything in the polls, that everybody didn't simply love him. And as a staffer it's very strange that it's preferable to keep your boss in the dark. That suggests something really bad going on.

KRISTOL: But it's a different -- but it's a different staff now. I mean, the staff who were willing to tell him something like General McMaster was willing to say sir, you cannot do this. Gary Cohn was -- you know, was one of the first to say you should not do tariffs. They're gone. The staff is much more -- this is a more big problem I think. This is why Trump seems more unhinged as she was saying earlier on in a sense that people were there --

MELBER: And honestly reporting on people around him --

KRISTOL: The people who were there earlier had some standing and some ability to push back. I think there are fewer, and fewer those people in the White House.

FAT JOE: Everybody bought into it because he had some real reliable people at first around them then everybody kept dropping off you know, and now it's like you know, it was just the Trump show. You know, either you with him or you're not down.

MELBER: Right, and that -- and that there's really very little tolerance for it. Look at the Washington Post count. I mean this is something that separates him from literally every other President and we've had controversial presidents but 3,250 one false or misleading claims within two years. It's more than five times any other president.

LEAH WRIGHT RIGUEUR, PROFESSOR, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: So you're essentially talking about a president who has been doing that in my feelings challenge every single day of his presidency for you know since November 2016. He's asking America do you love me and he only wants one answer, yes I do love you. And which is why it continues to go over and over and over again. And when he wants to be surrounded by yes people, loyal people, people who you know reiterate his point say yes you know, you absolutely are right. So this is -- you know, this is somebody who has constructed his own reality not just from day one, not just from the start of his campaign, but his entire life has been about constructing a reality that says Donald Trump is the greatest and then getting pretty upset, getting in his feelings when he's not.

MELBER: And the persona for him has always been emotional and it's always been bullying and that's one thing that strangely is consistent while he's obviously reinvented things, reinvented his businesses when they went bankrupt, reinvented his profession when he became a media star instead of claiming to do real estate. Let's look at Donald Trump on The Today Show. I know people like some of your classic hits sometimes that's what they want to talk about. Here's classic Donald Trump talking about screwing people when he was a young man.


TRUMP: If I get the opportunity to screw any of the people that indirectly were not so helpful to me as they should have been, I will take that advantage.


MELBER: He's polarizing, Joe, but that's the persona that part of the country and a record high number of Republicans, highest Republicans support for Republican presidents since Bush 9/11 are still behind.

FAT JOE: Yes, well it's morally as wrong. So it just seems like everybody feels like yo, we got a Republican, we ride in for him. We don't care what he does. We don't care what he says, what is his policies at the border, whatever the case is. Whatever he does we're riding with him. And it's so partisan that I just want to see the human beings come out and say you know, this is wrong, you know. And that that hasn't been happening since the beginning of his presidency and we've been waiting for somebody to become humanized, somebody to say, you know what, he's wrong and John McCain, you know, he's been the one, you know, to go up against Trump and the guy gave himself to this country and done everything and they writing him off like you know, you to past, like we rolling with Trump and that's crazy.

MCINTOSH: I think what's really sad is that you can't just flip this one backwards. Something had to go very, very wrong in this country for him to be elected in the first place. And that means we can't just say whoops, this is an aberration because it's not an aberration.

FAT JOE: Whether it was this silent majority.


FAT JOE: So he had a game. He's actually brilliant. He had a game plan, guys. I don't know if you all know that. he was -- he was waving it in our face the whole time, this is silent majority.

MELBER: We don't know -- we're the media, we don't know anything.

FAT JOE: So the guy next to you is really voting for Trump but he isn't saying it that he's voting for him so he was going after that guy to begin with. So you can't look at the polls, we can't even take the poll serious no more. You have to act as if he's up a hundred points. And you have -- that's it because everybody thought he's going to lose.


FAT JOE: The poll said he's going to lose and he won. So like you have to run like we're losing --

MCINTOSH: Yes, absolutely.

FAT JOE: Even if you're ahead.

MCINTOSH: He started this campaign by vilifying Mexicans and playing to a white racist xenophobic base and it worked and that meant that the problem was not so much that Donald Trump was the thing that got coughed up out of all of this but that we had that much racial animosity and reactionary thought about having had a successful black president to begin with. We can't just say Donald Trump is an aberration and we're sorry and let's take it back and he should vote -- never speak of him again because something was so wrong in America that that kind of campaign could win in the first place.

KRISTOL: 90 percent of Obama voters -- 90% of Trump' voters voted for Obama in 2012. So there was a real you know, he was the candidate of change. He was lucky too, let's not forget that.

MELBER: Right.

KRISTOL: He had a huge Republican field.

MCINTOSH: And a big Russia assist.

KRISTOL: He starts up against Jeb Bush who embodies the status quo then went against Hillary Clinton who equally embodies the status quo. People want change.

MELBER: You might say -- you might say that he bodied people who embodied the status quo.

KRISTOL: Russia helps him, Comey helps him. I mean, a lot of things happen but it has happen.

MELBER: It was that -- it was that close. What I want to do is fit in a quick break. This whole panel stays. Leah, I want to get in from you because I see you chomping at the bit. What we're going to do up ahead is we are celebrating our special night. Thanks to you our viewers, we've been on the air now for a year. And up next we're going to show you some of the best moments along with the panel when we're back in just 30 seconds.


MELBER: Hello everyone! I only get to do this about once a year but I'm going to do it and say thank you for supporting our show and watching our show because of you and because of the guests that we've had all year and because of our staff, we are happy to say we're now marking a year of this show existing, a year THE BEAT tonight. As we like to say you could have been anywhere in the world but you're here with us and we appreciate that. So here a look back at this year.


The premiere of THE BEAT with Ari Melber starts right now. Ari, we are totally --

MELBER: The first look at previously secret documents.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D), VIRGINIA: Democrats and Republicans are going to want to talk to Mr. Trump Jr.

RACHEL MADDOW, MSNBC HOST: He is a man who carries out orders. That's important news about that meeting. Congratulations on the scoop. Man, I'm super jealous.

RICHARD PAINTER (D), SENATE CANDIDATE: I think we've run out of coffee boys here. Every time someone gets invited they just say that's the coffee boy.

MELBER: Are you prepared to be held in contempt to potentially go to jail?


MAYA WILEY, LAWYER: No it's not ridiculous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The first person to have outplayed Donald Trump is a porn star.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, LAWYER: First of all, Ari, let me say Merry Christmas to you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to respect laws --

MELBER: Go on.


REP. TED LIEU (D), CALIFORNIA: It's like dangling the shiny object seen here. Look at it.

D.L. HUGHLEY, COMEDIAN: Any dude that has a comb-over like that lies to himself all the time.

MELBER: For a dollar, define collusion.

BILLY EICHNER, COMEDIAN: Oh God, it's when you collude.

MELBER: And you know under the law that is an admission of guilt.


MELBER: If you had to be on an island with one of your current Senate colleagues it would be --

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D), CALIFORNIA: It's just like a bouquet of flowers. How would I pick one?

MELBER: I'm here at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

REV. AL SHARPTON, MSNBC HOST: We can't let Trump play us off against each other.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's not a woman in America who isn't now reliving some experience.

MCINTOSH: We are in a different place now in 2018 than we were in 2016.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're shifting the blame and the shame to the actual harassers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't tell you the effect that I had on me. It was - - it was internal.

MELBER: There is a saying in television news of a hard turn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh I know hard to turn and luckily I can make one.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think you need to fall back and not give your guest a homework before they come on the program.

MELBER: Fat Joe it's about us, it's about trust, is what I remembered.

You're not shouting out Bill Kristol?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen Bill Kristol on T.V. but I don't know -- I don't know him like that yet.

MELBER: OK. Hey Bill, hey Bill, we don't know you like that.

KRISTOL: I'm speechless, what can I say,

I'm the original Beatnik on your show, remember that.

MELBER: Is this real life, is this just fantasy, but this is real life. Yes, there you have it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mind that it doesn't go fast enough for this segment.

MELBER: This time I think Chuck was funnier.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, come on, stop it.

MELBER: We end the week Nancy, with Bill Kristol just burning me.

I want a hug like that too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're getting one next time I see you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The model of the White House seems to me casuals everything around me. It's dollar, dollar bills.

MELBER: There is a famous Kevin Gates song about having two phones one for the plug and one for the load.

AVENATTI: There's nothing wrong with having a blackberry right? I know --

MELBER: How do you know what we're talking about?

We run tings, tings not run we.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're on a street light sesame?

MELBER: So I'll finish the line, if that's your girl why are you texting me? I don't know if we should go that far.

I don't you if you ever listen to reggae or Peter Tosh. He had a famous song legalize it.


This is the most Met Gala THE BEAT has ever looked.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is this is -- this is not Met Gala drag, this is casual. This is everyday drag.

DAVE CHAPPELLE, COMEDIAN: It's dangerous for me to even step into the political arena. Poopety Scoop.

MELBER: Poopety Scoop, it's how we end all of our interviews.


MELBER: Sean Penn the novelist must be stopped.

You know you're popping when you got more than one nickname.

Kamala Harris is --

I appreciate you spending some time on THE BEAT tonight.

SEN. CORY BOOKER (D), NEW JERSEY: Thank you so much. May THE BEAT go on.

MELBER: Thank you, sir.


MELBER: What can I say, we tried. That is how we remember this year thanks to everyone and when we come back, the whole panel weighs back. It's Fat Joe, Bill Kristol, Jess McIntosh, Leah Wright Rigueur and a word to describe 2018 when we're back.


MELBER: As promised back with me Fat Joe, Bill Kristol, Jess McIntosh, and Leah Wright Rigueur. When we last left, Leah, a few moments ago, there was something you were going to say about Trump interest.

RIGUEUR: Sure. So I -- what I was going to say is that Trump is a symptom. He's not the problem. That he is, in this case, has actually exacerbated a lot of pre-existing problems or better yet has exposed the rot. And so in that respect, one of the things that we've really seen is that he's put a spotlight on resistance, on people who are challenging. And I think it's one of the things that gets overlooked particularly in an era -- in a chaotic era, an erea of chaos like right now which is that there are people who are mobilizing, there are people that are running for office, there are people who are making huge strides out of necessity but in a way that is incredibly valuable and significant.

MCINTOSH: Yes, I mean we're seeing a electorates changed dramatically in ways that I never thought would be possible. If progressives were ever able to figure out how to make our people turn out in local elections and off-year elections and midterms and specials the same way we turn out in presidential elections, that would be the ballgame. And what we have seen sense Trump's election is the groundswell of people who have suddenly realized that they have a very serious stake in civic participation and we're seeing special election turnouts at like 46 percent that are usually at like nine. So this could be and I hate to say anything is worth it because it's really truly terrible what's happening to tons of families across America right now and I don't know that anything is worth that but there is a chance that it inspires such a backlash of activism that we really do change our relationship to the political structure and that sort of the only non-depressing thing that I can think about in 2018.

MELBER: And if that is a big change, it would be somewhat accidental if you buy the theory that Trump got to be president by accident and didn't really expect to be president.

KRISTOL: Yes, but I think it would be a health -- there's a can be a healthy reaction just don't think even if it's an accidental thing exposed to certain things about our country as you're saying but also he's making it so much worse. I mean, I always come back to that with Trump. You can talk about symptoms, the culture, and all kinds of things that are wrong but having a president we know a lot of -- we've had a lot of demagogues, we've had a lot of liars and we've had a lot of irresponsible political leaders on both sides honestly over decades, we really haven't had one as President in the United States and one who as president is using his standing, his office to just make things relentlessly to hammer away and make things worse in fact, in terms of the discourse.

FAT JOE: We dropped the ball and we got to reflect on ourselves and say that we do enough. Now we got to do more. So with all these races, with what everything is coming up we for sure will not let Donald Trump become president for a second time.

MELBER: That's how you feel.

FAT JOE: I know so. I know so.

MELBER: Thinking about this year, I want to do one weird thing at the end but sometimes I don't know if you guys know sometimes we do weird things on this show.

FAT JOE: Absolutely.

KRISTOL: It's amazing the show's been out for a whole year. And your bosses, the corporate bosses they were very tolerant people. That's something else.

MELBER: Bill Kristol is speaking his mind.

KRISTOL: Bringing that truth to power.

FAT JOE: When this face go on air, (INAUDIBLE) goes up.

MELBER: For everyone, 2018 in one word.

RIGUEUR: Well I'm going to cheat since 2018 was all about breaking the rules and say chaos but opportunity.

MCINTOSH: I'm going to go with what Trump's doing to America and say sabotage. Happy Anniversary!

KRISTOL: Exhausting.

FAT JOE: I would say this year has been a roller coaster.

MELBER: A roller coaster and we need reliable people, you need good reliable operators to make sure we all get off the roller coaster in one piece at one time. My special thanks to a panel as we reflect on everything. Bill Kristol, Fat Joe, Jess McIntosh, and Leah Wright Rigueur. My final thought when we're right back


MELBER: That is our show. One programming update, we had announced Michael Avenatti to be on the show tonight but he got stuck in court. He'll have to join us another night. I'll be back at 6 p.m. Eastern tomorrow. "HARDBALL" with Chris Matthews is up next.



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